Snohomish police will become part of county sheriff's office
The move is expected to save $2 million over time and to provide more stability for the city's budget, officials say.
City Council members Tuesday night voted 4-3 to contract for police services during the next five years.
The move is expected to save $2 million over time, Snohomish Mayor Karen Guzak said.
The contract must be approved by county government. It is slated to go into effect Jan. 1.
Snohomish now has 18 commissioned police officers, city Manager Larry Bauman said.
The contract specifies that the size of the department will remain the same.
Most, if not all, of the officers now working in Snohomish are expected to get hired on as sheriff's deputies, but they first must meet county hiring standards for law enforcement. Some appointments may be provisional while that takes place.
The background checks already are starting, Bauman said Wednesday.
The department will, however, lose some civilian positions, including that of Police Chief John Turner. Turner has already retired before and is no longer a commissioned police officer.
It will be a sad change, Guzak said.
Turner has made enormous contributions to Snohomish, she said.
"He has won the trust, and the respect, and the love, really, of this community," she said.
The future of policing in Snohomish has been hotly debated for the past six months. Some in town were vehemently opposed to the contract. The arguments created rifts both in the community and at City Hall.
City leaders now hope Snohomish can move forward, Bauman said.
Once people see how the contract works, they will feel more comfortable, Bauman said.
"I think it's divided our community in some ways, which is really unfortunate, but I think those wounds will heal over time," he said.
The contract will provide cost stability, Guzak said. The expenses of running a city law enforcement agency were unpredictable, but the contract sets a price for the next five years.
The city has let go of several officers since 2008, and she was worried they would lose more.
"We felt we couldn't go any further with that," she said.
Snohomish now must choose a new police chief. Most cities that contract with the sheriff's office have a local chief who runs day-to-day operations.
There are five candidates for the job: Snohomish police Cmdr. Fred Havener and sheriff's lieutenants Jeff Brand, John Flood, Kathi Lang and Rob Palmer.
At least two chief interview panels are planned, in addition to a community open house. People will be able to meet the candidates, learn about their backgrounds and find out why they're interested in the Snohomish job, Bauman said.
"We really want to be able to allow the community to be part of this process," he said.
Bauman must recommend a chief to the council by Dec. 6. He hopes to forward a final recommendation to Sheriff John Lovick on Dec. 7.
Lovick will make the final decision.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org
A community open house for people to meet Snohomish police chief candidates is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Snohomish Senior Center.
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